Helpful Stuff You Should Know
By Colin Dangaard
|Colin and Neal|
I write here discoveries from 70 years of riding horses and what I have learned from Neil Davies, now a best-selling author with his book FEAR FREE HORSE TRAINING. Davies is the leading edge of a new way of dealing with horses, to greatly benefit man and beast. He has inspired me for many decades. You can call me to get a copy of this fantastic book.
Sometimes topics do not need a thousand words, so I will run down the bullet points.
SHYING. Forget about pushing him into the offending object. That’s a bit like curing car crash victims of fear by giving them more car crashes. Shying happens at a point where the horse has stopped thinking about what you want and immediately flashes on what worries him. Best instead to move him back from whatever worries him and let him assess the situation from a distance where he feels safe. Talk to him, stroke his neck, let him know you are there for him. Then let him proceed at his comfort level. Every horse has a different point of flash reaction. Find where that point is with your horse.
BACKING UP: This is actually a most difficult task for a horse, so it should be left until later training stages. The importance of baking up is way over rated. More important to teach the horse to go forward and walk in a perfect circle. If a circle can be accomplished it means you have engaged his mind, which means you are then in a position to ask for more complicated moves – like backing up.
STOPPING. Forget a more severe bit. All that does is a set up a fight scenario and causes resentment. In a fight, the horse wins. The horse is not stopping because you have not engaged his mind. He is doing what he wants to do, not what YOU want him to do. A horse that “runs through the bit” is not confident. Stopping has more to do with going forward than with actually stopping. A horse that is relaxed and moving forward will stop easily, because he will want to stop. It is easier to stand still than to move. He will take the easy way out, because you will have shown him. Remember, everything you want a horse to do you must teach him. You are asking for behavior and discipline that he does not need in his natural state.
JUMPING. As far as the horse is concerned, there is no difference between a 2ft jump and a 4ft jump. They both require the same action. But jumping, like backing up, is not a natural move for a horse. They prefer to go around something than over it. But of course they can be persuaded to go against their natural judgement. But to jump what is required is that YOU are confident .Any hesitation, any slight of heart, will be registered by the horse and he will find a way around the jump, or simply refuse. He will not want to go over it because YOU will not want to go over it. Above all, never LOOK at the jump because he will want to stop and see what you are looking at. The first part of your body to go over a jump should be your heart. The rest will follow.
GALLOPING. Stay up and forward, so the horse can push you instead of dragging you. This is what makes traditional Western saddles a difficult ride; to do well in these you must first negotiate how the saddle is impacting your feel of the horse. Regardless of what is caressing your butt, keep your elbows in, hands down, your leg in a full dressage position, heels back from the girth. Never hang onto the horn, or any part of the saddle. Once you hold onto the saddle you have lost balance. Your hands should be way forward of any part of the saddle, and broached across the mane. This position allows an immediate correction if the horse hits a ditch, and goes down. You are then in a position to immediately pull up his head and help him correct and lift his weight to prevent ploughing in head-first. A lose rein will do him no good. You can either help him or hinder him at that moment. A galloping horse is more alert than he will ever be, and you should be too.
CATCHING A HORSE. This is a common problem people have is being unable to catch their horse in an open field. You must always ask yourself: why would he come to me? You have a halter in your hand so he knows what’s coming. He would most certainly rather stay in the paddock than carry you for a few hours in the woods. He would rather be with his mates than with you –UNLESS you give him a better option. Try putting the halter over your shoulder and in your left hand carry a bucket with some grain. Approach him by walking calmly to him and POINTING your finger at him with your right hand and he will focus on your finger, while taking in the promises of the bucket. If he turns his head to move away, stop immediately, and make no more moves until he stops. Then move forward again, talking calmly and pointing at him. You will capture his interest, and he will stand still. Once caught, reward him with the grain and a rub on the forehead. Pretty soon, you will not even have to walk over to him. He will see the bucket and come to you. . Never run after a horse that is actually running away. Make no moves until he stops, then renew your approach. After a few days, carry the bucket with no grain and instead simply give him a head rub. Next, leave the bucket outside the corral and instead approach him and give him just a head rub. Then go back and start the process all over again, to reinforce what you want. Sounds like a lot of trouble but add up the minutes you spend from start to finish over two weeks and it will be less than a couple of hours. This will be far less time “wasted” than having to spend twice as long EVERY day for the rest of his riding life! That would add up to months of wasted time, plus the frustration of the occasional time where you would not catch him at all! Make a point of occasionally going over to your horses and give them a head rub and not catch them at all. Do something to make your horse happy to see you!! Ian Clews, an old riding buddy, has a most unequal approach that actually works. Ian lays in the middle of the field, occasionally wriggling his legs in the air. Soon the horse comes over, absolutely riveted with interest. Then Ian reach ups and rubs the horse’s head and pretty is slipping an arm over the mane.
REWARD AND PUNISHMENT. Reward always works, punishment rarely does, but sometimes a “correction” is necessary. This might be a tap with a long dressage-style whip. A horse should always be giving you his complete attention. A tap sometimes will promote re-focus. Never strike a horse violently or lose your temper. If you feel frustration rising, quit immediately and come back another day. This is difficult to do. I once lost my cool with a young colt and, out of frustration, I struck him hard on the shoulder with a crop. I would always regret that. I was never thereafter able to mount that horse with a crop in my hand. For the next 20 years I had to put the crop on a fence post, then ride by and pick it up. All that trouble for one moment of losing my cool. My bad.
GETTING A HORSE IN A TRAILER. Once again, it is all about removing fear from the horse. Of course the horse is afraid to go into a “cave;” there could be lions in there! You must make the trailer a nice place. Food is always a way to make a horse feel at home. If you have a corral with removable panels, take out a panel and back a trailer up to the opening, with door open, and feed the horse in the trailer. You do not have to lead him into the trailer to “show” him the feed. He will smell it, know it is there and go in when he is hungry. Another barrier has been crossed here. It was HIS idea to go into the trailer. After a week of this you will probably have trouble getting him OUT of the trailer. Running a horse around outside a trailer because he refuses to go in often does not work, because you are actually INCREASING the fear rather than taking it away. You have a sweaty, scared horse who has now declared war on you – and in this case, you will lose. There are other ways of course, but they must have in common the ingredient that removes fear.
RUNNING A HORSE. Ride it like you stole it. There is only one rule. Keep the horse between you and the ground.
Editor’s note: Colin Dangaard, Founder of The Australian Stock Saddle Company, revolutionized the horse World by introducing a new saddle and way to ride. He can be contacted at P.O.Box 987, Malibu, Ca., 90265, 818-889-6988 or visit at aussiesaddle.com You can call Colin direct 818-309-8125.
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